Are you familiar with the idea of a mashup in music terms? It’s when you combine elements of one song with elements of another and the result is a new, hybrid song. There are tons of examples, but here’s one of my favorites to get you started, “Galvanize the Empire” by Party Ben. With me now? The Derby is what I would imagine the cocktail equivalent of a mashup would be. Bourbon and sweet vermouth from a Manhattan. Sourness and sweet from a Whiskey Sour. Combine all these elements and you have the Derby. And, like all good mashups, this one is harmonious and stands on its own.
Before I discuss the taste at length, let’s briefly talk about the changes I felt were necessary. First, this drink as printed in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails is tiny. I get that old school drinks were typically smaller than what you’ll find these days, but this one is tiny even by those standards. So, I bumped everything up by half and I’m much happier. Next the lime in the recipe overpowered the other ingredients a little. So, when I did my quantity increasing I didn’t increase that one as much, though it’s a pretty minor decrease. Ok, now let’s talk tastiness.
The Derby (Cocktail Hacker)
1 1/2 oz Bourbon 3/4 oz Lime Juice 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth 3/4 oz Orange Curacao
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice 2) Shake until combined and well chilled 3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Although I stick by my claim of a mashup, the flavor of this drink is definitely more in line with a Whiskey Sour. Though, instead of bitters to add complexity here you have vermouth. Certainly they add complexity and spice, but it isn’t as forward and bold as bitters can be. Instead the sweet vermouth adds an undercurrent of flavor complexity. I’d challenge you to tell me it was there without knowing, but the drink would be much flatter without it. The lime juice as well changes up the flavor dynamic. Ever made a Daiquiri with lemon instead of lime juice? It’s a lot like that. Finally, with my small tweak to the sourness level I find this drink to be really well balanced. Overall this is definitely a super tasty cocktail. You absolutely shouldn’t wait for the Derby to give it a try.